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A Challenge for Pamela Geller

Islamophobia in America: Enough is Enough
Part 1
By Karen Leslie Hernandez
Theologian- United States of America
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I am here to challenge Pamela Geller on her hate speech and ask her to stop, because, simply put, enough is enough.

Islamophobia has reached new heights in the past few months here in America. What is disturbing about this is that this movement is mostly led by the same people, with the same rhetoric, and with the same message—hate.

Isn’t it time we stop this hate?

We have free speech here in America, but when the freedom to say what we want, turns into hate speech, that is when I will not sit idly by and say nothing.

In recent months, subway and bus ads have appeared that state, “Any war between the civilized man and the savage … Support the civilized man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” These ads are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, whose Executive Director is Pamela Geller.

All sarcasm aside, I posit this question—are Muslims savages? Of course not. Ms. Geller’s hate and ideological rhetoric, however, is savage.

These ads were challenged in the Supreme Court and in a ruling, the judge allowed the ads to be posted. In Pamela Geller’s own words from the ABC news link above, the ads have validity.

"The point is any war on civilians is savagery. The rockets going into Israel by Gaza is savagery, blowing up buses is savagery, targeting a bus of Jewish mothers and children, savagery, Daniel Pearl, 9/11, 7/7, 3/11, are all savagery … I'm just restating the obvious.”

I am here to challenge Pamela Geller on her hate speech and ask her to stop, because, simply put, enough is enough.

I’ve often wondered who Pamela Geller is, where she was educated, and why she is so full of hate. This is what I found. Pamela Geller is from New York City and dropped out of Hofstra University. She has no formal education in what she touts herself to be when she speaks and writes on National and International issues. Quoted as being, “Fearless, intelligent and beautiful,” I wonder how Geller can have an informed opinion when she has no educational understanding of the situation at hand. Truth be told, Pamela Geller does not speak from knowledge, but from hate.

I see and talk to my many Muslim friends all the time. They are intelligent, compassionate, fabulous people; in fact, they are beautiful human beings.

Does She Know?

I am not here to trash-talk Geller; she does a fine job of that on her own. What I am here to do is challenge Ms. Geller. I wonder how many Iftars Ms. Geller has attended.

I wonder how many Madrasas Ms. Geller has walked into, and conversed with the gentlemen going to school there. I wonder how many Muslim women Ms. Geller has spoken to in the slums of Mumbai. I wonder if Ms. Geller knows or talks to any Muslims at all. Has Ms. Geller spent time, or even attended Friday Jummah, at the Park 51 Mosque in New York City that she so opposes?

I have spent three days with what Geller labels “savages” in a madrasa in India – and they were all Wahhabist Muslims too. They didn’t try to use any of their Shari’a laws on me for anything, and look… I am still here, alive, to write about it.

I have attended many Iftars, and my food wasn’t poisoned. Can you believe it? I’ve spent weeks in the slums of Mumbai with Muslim men, women and children—and I wasn’t threatened once. I have walked through the Muslim Quarter of Old Jerusalem and was invited to sit and have tea with a nice Bedouin man, and he didn’t try to make me convert or marry him, but instead told me stories of what flowers mean to the Bedouin people. I see and talk to my many Muslim friends all the time. They are intelligent, compassionate, fabulous people; in fact, they are beautiful human beings.

All sarcasm aside, I posit this question—are Muslims savages? Of course not. Ms. Geller’s hate and ideological rhetoric, however, is savage. In fact, the definition of a person who is savage is that of being enraged or furiously angry. That, I am afraid, sounds like Ms. Geller.

I often wonder where Ms. Geller’s warped sense of the world comes from. Her biggest influences are other bigots such as Bat Ye’or and David Horowitz. Whereas my influences are those whom I have learned from all over the world in my anthropological and sociological work, as well as my work in the classroom. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Baha’i’s, Sikhs, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics and so many more, have led me to this important place of tolerance and acceptance.

I ask Ms. Geller to please educate herself. This includes spending time with Muslims worldwide, asking questions, and seeking insight and knowledge into their everyday lives and their “jihad.”

War on Gaza: Is It a  Savage act Too?

Is it Ms. Geller’s roots that cause her innate fear of Muslims? Quite frankly, I understand Ms. Geller’s love for Israel. Yet, there are many aspects of this conflict that are ignored by Ms. Geller. In her quote I shared above, she says, in part, that “… any war on civilians is savagery.” So, this must include Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory and all that goes with that, as well as Israel’s actions in January of 2009 in Gaza, where over 1000 civilians were killed?

Now, please don’t go calling me an anti-Semite just because I advocate for and believe in the Palestinian plight, because I am not. I am simply for human rights—for all people, regardless of religion, race, culture, or ethnicity.

It is important to note that I am not saying that the religion of Islam does not have a problem with movements that are based on politics and social issues, and the extremists use religion as their impetus.

Yes, the Islamic religion has been hijacked by a select group of people that advocate violence. I do not condone this, of course. I have challenged these extremists before. It is common sense that this minority group of extremists gets the attention they do not deserve, hence creating fear and hate of Muslims worldwide. These extremists do not represent the 99% of peaceful Muslims on the planet. I am not sure what else I can say to drive this point home. It is obvious.

So, here I am—a theologian that works to eradicate misunderstanding and build bridges. What do I do with this kind of hate that Ms. Geller continues to spread, and only results in more hate and misunderstanding? This kind of behavior is not easy to address when you are dealing with someone like Geller. I don’t want to lower myself to her level of hateful speech to counteract her philistinism.

I certainly will not verbally attack her here, or anywhere, and I ask all of you, to not insult or verbally attack her either. Hateful words, for hateful words, lead nowhere.

I challenge Ms. Pamela Geller to the following:

I ask Ms. Geller to please educate herself. This includes spending time with Muslims worldwide, asking questions, and seeking insight and knowledge into their everyday lives and their “jihad.” I ask Ms. Geller to stop her rhetoric that promotes and exacerbates hate and intolerance, and in the end, hurts people in our nation, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I ask Ms. Geller to realize that her words and actions are, at many times, outrageous, and fall along the lines with people such as Arthur Butz. I ask Ms Geller to understand that yes, our first amendment here in America allows free speech, but, that does not mean we can attack a group of people, labeling them something they simply are not. And last, I share this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I’ve decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

I would like to remind Ms. Geller that hate is a choice. We can only hope that she decides to choose love, instead.

 

Related Links:
Jews, Christians Against ‘Savage Jihad’ Ads
Americans Protest Anti-Islam Ads
Anti-Islam Ads Prompt US Policy Review

 Karen Leslie Hernandez is a Theologian with a focus on Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism. She writes, teaches and lectures on Islam, Christian-Muslim relations worldwide (past and present), Jesus in the Qur'an, Al Qaeda, Islamophobia, and theological responses to terrorism.

Karen has a Master of Sacred Theology in Religion and Conflict Transformation, Boston University School of Theology; a Master of Theological Research in Christian-Muslim Understanding, Andover Newton Theological School; and a BA in Peace and Justice Studies with a concentration in Islam, Wellesley College. She has published with the Women's United Nations Report Network, Onislam, The American Muslim, and The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue.


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